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Somewhere between the Black Sabbath reunion and DIO's rejuvenated touring in the late nineties, there is a lttle 1994 release called "Strange Highways". As fucking heavy as Sabbath (as seen in 1992's masterpiece Dehumanizer) but as non-cliche as DIO's politically assertive "Angry Machines". This album was the highest point in DIO's evolution. The formula of Holy Diver - Last In Line - Sacred Heart - Dream Evil was cracked a bit with Lock Up The Wolves, broken by a Sabbath reunion, and completely decimated in 1994. This album in three words, is: HEAVY. NASTY. AWESOME.
We have good ol' Ronnie leading the charge, accompanied by the best man besides RJD in the DIO lineup canon, Vinnie Appice on drums. Vinnie makes this album work. He CRUSHES that drumset on every song. Jeff Pilson of Dokken fame gives us the bass, and Tracy G lays down some of the heaviest fucking riffs AND solos to be heard on a DIO album since....well NEVER. Vivian Campbell NEVER played this angry and crushing. People say this album doesn't sound like classic Dio, much like how many say Judas Priest's latest hasn't sounded like classic Priest. They are pretty true, but for Dio's sake, he manages to pull this switch off to perfection. From an industrial tinged vox and groove in the opener "Jesus, Mary, and The Holy Ghost" to the sludge of the title track, this thing rocks. Personally, I feel Dio is more suited to this kinda of throaty screaming with trudging riffs, especially in this day and age, but alas he no longer does this. Songs like "Firehead", "Bring Down The Rain", and the holy fucking awesome and extremely underrated "Evilution" slays everything in the Dio discography with the exception of the classic 2. The socially aware and anti-religion lyrics are really refreshing, and the band is really tight right off the bat. Sadly, the rehash of this formula in 1996's Angry Machines didn't come out as well, but here it strikes gold. A must for any Dio fan and doom metal minion.